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May 23, 1966

Totemic Medicine and Shamanism Among the Northwest American Indians

Author Affiliations

From the Department of History of Medicine and Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

JAMA. 1966;196(8):700-706. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100210070018

Medicine has marched with history and marked time with it. It has molded and, in its turn, has been influenced by the degree of intellectual development in any given space or era of human endeavor. Primitive medicine, then, reflects the primitive man's thoughts about life, death, social, and, indeed, all activity. The aborigine saw in all disease—from fracture to fever or fainting—the hand of the supernatural, the premordial etiologic factor in all abnormal as well as normal conditions. This was the state of American Indian medicine at the time of European contact. The Northwest Coast native was the last to come under the influence of civilization and indeed medicine men of primitive thinking can still be sporadically encountered.

Ethnography  Anthropologically the Northwest Pacific Coast constitutes a well-defined "cultural unit," with its particular form of social and political organization, its peculiar economy, art, and technology, its own temporal and spiritual way

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